Thursday, January 9, 2020

Discovering a wild spiky vine

After exploring the Theodore Payne nursery I climbed their Wild Flower Hill Trail "a ¾ mile walk through chaparral and coastal sage scrub." Part way up the hill I came across this, naturally it was the spikes that got my attention.

Then I saw another...

And another...

The inner chambers reminded me of the yucca seed pod I recently wrote about (here).

I looked around for any hint as to where these interesting pods were coming from. I saw one a ways off the trail...

I found a very dried speciman...

And a more intact version.

This one was the first time I saw any clue to its origins, did it come from that dried up tangly business?

Here I had to laugh. It was as though whatever little creature calls that hole home had hauled the fruit in question all the way there, then decided to leave it outside, or threw it outside when it was done.

Here was when my suspicion I was dealing with a vine was finally verified.

When I got back down to the information desk I produced a couple of the spiky fruit that I'd collected and asked what exactly the plant was. I was told wild cucumber vine; Echinocystis lobata when I looked it up. That sent me researching and at first everything matched up. Then I watched this video of the exploding cucumbers (expelling their seeds). They were so much smaller than what I saw. Then I looked at this map showing where the vine grows, if you click on the link you'll see it is absent/unreported in California. Then I read the fruit has two chambers, what I'd collected clearly had four.  So back to Uncle Google and there I discovered another wild cucumber vine, Marah macrocarpa. This one is native to Southern California and definitely has the same, large, fruit I saw. Plus..."the vines emerge from a large, hard tuberous root that can extend several meters and weigh over 200 pounds. One manroot found by Rancho Santa Ana Bontanic Garden was reported to weigh 467 pounds after being removed from the soil" well that's pretty cool! Click on over to this website for a look at what that large, hard tuberous root looks like.

Weather Diary, Jan 8: Hi 48, Low 36/ Precip .21

All material © 2009-2020 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

17 comments:

  1. The vine looks like one that appears here each year in a thicket at the boundary between our property and that of our neighbor on the south. I've never seen it produce fruit but now I'll watch out for it!

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    1. Yikes, if you see fruit you'd better dispatch them before it spreads.

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  2. Please tell me you saved that gray skeletonized one at least and brought it home! It's cool!

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    1. You know me well. I did! I actually took four of the pods in various states of decay back to the hotel with me, but when it was time to pack they'd all dried out. Only the grey one was small enough to slip in where I knew it wouldn't get crushed.

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  3. Yes, definitely Marah macrocarpa. A fire follower. Commonly grows best after a fire in open areas, but persistent all over. Our favorite nickname for them is Porcupine Eggs.

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  4. I would never have known what that was. Great sleuthing.

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  5. By the third picture I thought I was looking at the rear end of a pufferfish, which made me wonder how in the world it got there! Crazy where my mind can go. The dried out pod is so artistic: the most perfect stage of the decay. Good for you for discovering the critter's hole... Miss Indiana Jones!

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  6. Very impressive detective work, Loree. The dried shell is a fine artifact for your collection!

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  7. Clicked on the website to see the tuber. Wow! Sure glad I don't have dig that out of the garden. The pods remind me of sea urchins. Very cool.

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    1. Can you imagine? That's serious! Sea urchins are also a great description.

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  8. Wow. You are one serious gal when it comes to plant research.

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  9. In Astoria we have Marah oregonus that comes up every summer. It ranges through a Laurel hedge, and I'm not sure which is faster growing. Skylar of Tangly Cottage blog told me it is also called Man Underground (a name I love!) and from the look of the partial root I can see in my garden, the rest may be as huge as your other described species.

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